We often hear the phrases “think positive” and “good vibes only” as an approach to overcoming negative thoughts and emotions, and moving forward in life. While positive thinking can help, it’s not always enough.
What we often label as negative thoughts and feelings can be connected to the survival mode of our nervous system because they can be protective and life-preserving. Anger helps us to be aware of when we may feel taken advantage of or not seen or heard. This emotion can help us to course correct towards setting boundaries to protect ourselves. Sadness can help us to know that there is a loss (whether of something physical or a transition in life) that needs to be grieved and also to have a sense of appreciation for people and seasons in our lives because we have them for a short time. Anxiety can let us know when we need to be alert to leave a situation. These are just examples of how helpful these life-preserving emotions are associated with negative thoughts. These emotions are there for a good reason and bypassing to think positively is not always helpful.
The pull to use positive thinking is that we maybe feel flooded by the life-preserving feeling that is associated with “negative thinking” and that keeps us from moving forward in life. When we are in the survival mood (fight/flight/freeze/fawn), we often have life-preserving/protective emotions and thoughts experienced that are often labeled as negative. When these protective thoughts are experienced in an extreme manner it is difficult to have access to the prefrontal cortex of our brain which is used for higher mental functioning, helps us to feel more present and see different options to our concerns.
When our prefrontal cortex is online, (instead of our survival mood) all of the following function better reasoning, problem-solving, comprehension, impulse control, creativity, and perseverance. What is needed beyond positive thinking is an integrative approach to mental health that engages in regulating the nervous system to enhance the mind-body connection.
Types of Mind-Body Connection Therapy
Mind-body therapy refers to various techniques and therapeutic modalities that therapists use to work with the nervous system to promote mental and physical healing and balance. Some of the most effective techniques include Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) breathwork, yoga, meditation, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy, and Internal Family Systems (IFS) therapy.
Therapists use these techniques and modalities to help us reprocess past stressful or traumatic events, overcome depression, manage anxiety, and improve overall mental health and well-being. Let’s explore these approaches to overcoming negative thoughts and other mental health challenges.
Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy is a therapeutic modality that combines CBT with mindfulness. Therapists teach you to change your perceptions while regulating your nervous system which enhances your prefrontal cortex functioning. When your prefrontal cortex is online, integrating positive thoughts is more effective, and that can improve how you feel.
Breathwork involves conscious breathing to better regulate our nervous system and thus reduce stress and anxiety. Anxious thoughts can active our body into the survival mood. With breathwork we we can use our body to short-circuit the effects of negative thoughts on the body. By focusing on our breath, we can become more present and aware of our thoughts and emotions, helping us reduce anxiety and negative thinking.
Yoga and Meditation
Yoga combines physical postures with breathwork and meditation to promote relaxation and balance. Meditation is a technique that involves focusing on the present moment and observing thoughts and emotions. Research has shown that regular yoga practice can improve mood, reduce anxiety, and increase feelings of well-being. Both Yoga and Meditation help to regulate the nervous system to move from survival mode to rest mode, where we are prefrontal cortex is online and we can feel more present.
EMDR therapy is a technique used by therapists to treat a variety of mental health conditions, including phobias, anxiety, pain management, and PTSD. The EMDR method involves specific eye movements (or other forms of bilateral stimulation) used to process stressful or traumatic memories. The bilateral stimulation helps the client to be more aware of the present and to regulate the nervous system so that the client can effectively reprocess the past events that feed the client present-day negative thoughts. This therapy is shown to improve our mental health effectively.
IFS therapy helps reduce internal conflict, making it difficult to move forward. Therapists help us identify and process wounded parts of ourselves that may contribute to negative thoughts and emotions. This therapist also addresses the need for a regulated nervous system, but first working with the protective parts of ourselves such as parts of us that are angry or anxious, before addressing the wounded parts.
While positive thinking can be helpful, sometimes we need more help to feel better. By using different techniques, like breathwork, yoga, meditation, EMDR therapy, and IFS therapy, we can start addressing and managing all of our feelings to feel better and move forward.
Want to find out which approach is right for you?
Fully Integrated Psychotherapy & Consultation offers telehealth services throughout the state of New York, helping clients find solutions to their mental health challenges.